Abbott evades spying questions as Australia assumes G20 leadership

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 10:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 12:19pm


Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott vowed to be "absolutely candid" with world leaders but sidestepped questions on spying as Australia assumed the leadership of the G20 for 2014.

Abbott said the 2014 summit, to be held November in Brisbane, would be the "most significant meeting of world leaders ever hosted in Australia" and - as the host government - Canberra would also invite Singapore and New Zealand to attend.

"Our focus as G20 president will be on strong, private sector-led economic growth," Abbott said Sunday, the day that Australia became head of the G20.

He vowed to be up front with his international counterparts, but refused to comment specifically on spying after reports that Canada had allowed America's National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the 2010 G20 and G8 summits in Toronto.

The allegations were aired by Canada's public broadcaster CBC citing NSA briefing notes provided by fugitive contractor Edward Snowden.

"I can promise leaders around the world who are visiting Australia that I'm going to be absolutely candid with them, I won't be saying anything in private that I don't say in public," Abbott said.

"Apart from that I don't comment on intelligence matters. Never have, never will."

Ties between Canberra and Indonesia have been strained by claims Australian spies tried to tap the phones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and inner circle in 2009.

The allegations, based on NSA leaks from Snowden, saw Jakarta halt co-operation on people-smuggling and military exercises and recall its ambassador to Australia against a backdrop of furious public protests.